Recently, there has been mention of Camp Lejeune in the news not just in North Carolina, but also here in South Carolina and nationwide. Those familiar with this story already know, but scientific evidence revealed that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contaminated the water supply at Camp Lejeune for decades.
As a result, many Marines and their families stationed there have developed serious illnesses, including cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and more. Read on for a discussion of whether Camp Lejeune Marine veterans and their families can receive compensation for their conditions.
The Latest News on the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Story
If you have followed the Camp Lejeune water contamination situation, then you’re aware of the latest news. The good news is that this time, it’s not because of another case dismissal.
Instead, due in part to President Biden signing the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022) into law on August 10, 2022, Camp Lejeune Marines and their families may finally be eligible for compensation for their damages. In addition, the law expands access to health care and disability benefits to veterans exposed to toxic conditions. As a result of this contamination, many marines and their families have developed serious illnesses, including cancer.
The government has acknowledged that Camp Lejeune marines and their families who have developed cancer due to water contamination can receive compensation. However, in collaboration with the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the government has only acknowledged that the water contamination caused a select few cancers. These include breast, bladder, kidney, and liver cancers as well as leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Furthermore, affected Marines and their families only have a limited time to file a claim regarding their medical damages.
What About the North Carolina Statute of Limitations?
Around 2009, many Camp Lejeune toxic exposure victims started filing lawsuits against the government using the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA is a federal law that allows private citizens to sue the government in certain circumstances. The plaintiffs’ claims stated that they developed cancer and other severe health conditions from exposure to toxic chemicals polluting the military base. The victims learned about their possible exposure in 1999, years after the government revealed the contamination.
However, in 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the North Carolina statute of limitations barred these cases. The North Carolina statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on how long someone has to file a lawsuit. According to the law, tort lawsuits must be filed within ten years.
In the Camp Lejeune water contamination case, the statute of limitations has been a major obstacle for many victims, many of which now live here in Columbia and elsewhere in South Carolina. It’s believed that the VA improperly denied nearly 21,000 claims for veterans’ benefits related to water contamination. The good news is that the new law signed by President Biden eliminates the statute of limitations for Camp Lejeune toxic exposure legal cases, allowing Marines and their families to file lawsuits.
Who Is Eligible To File a Claim?
Before the current White House administration passed the new law, the VA finalized a rule for presumptive service connection. This means that if a Camp Lejeune veteran developed one of the eight diseases associated with the contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune, then they were entitled to disability benefits.
Now, any Camp Lejeune veteran who was exposed to the toxic water and developed a related health condition is presumed to have been disabled by their service. As a result, they are eligible for disability benefits and health care through the VA; however, the rule doesn’t ensure a broad acceptance of all Camp Lejeune victims’ claims.
The new law also created a fund to compensate veterans and their families affected by the water contamination. Contamination victims must meet the criteria below to qualify to file a lawsuit to recover compensation:
- Anyone who lived, worked, or was exposed to Camp Lejeune water for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 may be eligible for compensation. The days do not have to be consecutive.
- Military service records (for veterans) or proof of residency (for family members) are necessary to verify your time at Camp Lejeune.
- Records indicating that you have a diagnosis or are being treated for one of the 15 conditions associated with exposure to Camp Lejeune water.
- You must file a claim within two years of the law’s enactment date. The deadline is August 10, 2024.
While the new law is a step in the right direction, Camp Lejeune veterans and their families still have to jump through a few hoops to get the compensation they deserve. Hiring a personal injury attorney specializing in Camp Lejeune water contamination cases can help you navigate the process and get the compensation you deserve.
What Is the Average Settlement for Camp Lejeune Cancer Victims?
The amount of money Camp Lejeune victims and their families may receive in settlements varies depending on the severity of their illnesses and exposure to toxins. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) allotted $6.1 billion into a permanent settlement fund covering payouts to Camp Lejeune victims. Despite the initial investment into this fund, CBO officials estimate that the settlement of cases could cost approximately $287.5 billion during the next decade.
While no settlement values are available as of August 2022, the average settlement for Camp Lejeune cancer victims will likely fall between $100,000 to $1 million. Although, if you or a loved one developed bladder, kidney, or breast cancer after serving at Camp Lejeune, you could receive a higher settlement.
How Can I File a Claim?
If you or a loved one developed cancer after serving at Camp Lejeune, you might wonder if you have a case and how to file a claim as a Columbia, South Carolina resident. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in Camp Lejeune water contamination cases like ours at The Solomon Law Group is the best way to ensure you get the compensation you and your loved ones deserve. Victims can potentially recover the following damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Disability benefits
- Permanent Disability
- Loss of companionship, consortium, enjoyment of life, and earning capacity
- Other compensatory damages
In this case, an individual’s continued or future right to disability compensation, payments, or benefits under any VA program will not be affected by filing and winning a lawsuit. Although the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 does not cover punitive damages (damages meant to punish the federal government), there’s, fortunately, no cap on Camp Lejeune lawsuit compensatory damages.
An experienced lawyer from our office can help victims and their families understand the evidence they need to win their case and get the maximum compensation possible. If you plan to file a lawsuit, you must file an administrative claim with the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU). You’ll need to provide your contact information, explain your ties to Camp Lejeune, describe your injury, and clearly state how much money you want to settle your claim for, at the very least.
A lawyer can help you submit your administrative claim and increase the chance of receiving the total value of your claim. It would be unwise to ask for less than what your claim is worth. After filing your administrative claim correctly, the TCU has half a year to accept or deny it; however, you can proceed with your lawsuit if the TCU rejects your claim.
The claims process can be confusing and time-consuming, but an experienced lawyer from The Solomon Law Group can make it simpler for victims and their families. Reach out to our Columbia office as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation to discuss the options available to you in your case.